#hearLDSwomen: My Gospel Doctrine Teacher Asks Questions Specifically to “Priesthood Holders” and Ignores Women
I’ve taught Gospel Doctrine in three different wards for a combined 10 years, and I could never get a woman to sub for me. I asked plenty. They always said “Oh, I could never do that. Ask Bro. So and So.” So frustrating. Also, since my last stint ended, I’ve never been asked to sub. Had a female teacher for a year after me, and now a male teacher again. Always male subs. Always.
– Julie Rowse
When I was in my early 30s I was called to be a gospel doctrine teacher in a family ward, along with an older gentleman. We were replacing two older men who had served for about 2 years. People asked if I felt overwhelmed or nervous, and women told me they would be terrified to have that calling. I don’t think they asked my co-teacher the same questions. I usually answered that I was excited because I like teaching, as well as studying to prepare the lessons. I taught the first year and had great experiences and got so much good feedback from class members, who complimented my preparation and the perspectives I brought to the lessons. Sadly, the other teacher’s wife passed away around the year mark. I don’t know if he asked to be released or if the ward leadership wanted to take something off his plate. But they released BOTH of us at the same time and called two new teachers. Maybe they thought it would call attention to him if he were the only one released? I didn’t want to be released and didn’t see why I should be, but I wasn’t asked how I felt about it. Our replacements were two more older men. One of them basically stood at the front of the class and read from the manual. I was really hurt. It was another 2 years before a sister was called again to teach Gospel Doctrine.
One of our gospel doctrine teachers gets very nervous if anything is brought up outside of what is included in our super old Sunday school manuals, (e.g., Heavenly Mother, church history, gender roles, sexuality, fallibility of prophets, etc.). Many times, if someone brings up one of these topics she’ll defer answering to a priesthood leader. When we were learning about creation someone asked a question about Heavenly Mother which is something I’ve studied at length and have a huge testimony of. After she said she didn’t feel comfortable answering it, I raised my hand to give some insight. She pretended not to see me and said “Let’s let a priesthood leader handle this one”. So I said I’m not a priesthood leader but I have a few thoughts based on my own study and gave my answer without being called on. To his credit the stake president who was attending backed me up. But it really bothers me that no matter how well a woman studies, understands and articulates her thoughts she will always be seen as less credible than a man with priesthood whether he knows anything about the subject or not.
As a newlywed, I was in a ward that was very resistant to any progressive ideas. My husband would say much more inflammatory statements in lessons than I ever did. But while I was either shunted off to Primary or left without a calling for months (all while many ward members held 2 or 3 callings, so there was need), he got called to the Sunday School presidency.
My favorite Sunday school teacher (a woman) read a scripture from a more modern translation to help the class understand it better and was called in to the bishop’s office. A male member of the ward who was a CES instructor regularly quotes from the same translation.
Pro Tip: Where possible, make sure that women are cycling through positions as Sunday School teachers. If you have a hard time finding a woman who will accept this calling, do some listening and reflecting on what it is about the culture of your ward that makes women feel they aren’t qualified to speak.
“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)